Objective: the purpose of this study was to conduct a preliminary exploration of the language used by midwifery professional bodies to define the scope of practice of midwives in relation to woman-centred care.Design: this is a qualitative study in which Critical Discourse Analysis and Transitivity Analysis from the Systemic Functional Linguistics tradition were used. Data were sampled from nine international midwifery professional bodies.Findings: three general types of definitions of scope of practice were identified; a formal type which focused on midwifery practice in which the midwife and woman were largely absent as agents, a second, less formal type which focused on the midwife as agent, from which the woman was largely absent as an active participant and one exception to the pattern which featured the woman as agent. The main type of verb used in the definitions was Doing Processes such as monitor, diagnose. Saying (advise), Sensing (identify), and Being (be able to) processes were much less frequent in the data. The definitions of scope of practice explored in this study (with one exception) revealed a general lack of woman-centeredness and more of a focus on an orientation to birth as a medically managed event.Key conclusions: definitions of scope of practice statements by professional bodies are systematically developed through much conscious thought and discussion by the writers on behalf of a community of practice and are formulated specifically for the purpose of being available to the general public as well as midwives. It can be assumed that the choices of wording and content are carefully constructed with public dissemination in mind. These ideologies communicated via the professional body texts emanate from a socio-cultural context that varies from country to country and professional bodies construct the definitions by drawing on the available, circulating discourses. Although woman-centred care is a key focus in contemporary maternity care, many definitions of scope of practice reveal a continuing orientation to a medical model of pregnancy and birth and a synonymisation of midwife-led care with woman centred care.Implications for practice: by analysing statements of scope of practice by professional bodies and the contexts in which they are produced, we can continue to reveal the underlying social, political, and historical forces that influence midwifery practice. This paper examines some key examples of the professional discourse of midwifery in relation to the definition of the midwife and scope of practice in order to reflect on what these examples may tell us about the professional culture of midwifery and the implications for woman-centred care.